“The death of the father had left within me a yawning, empty place, something no amount of approval ever seemed able to fill. My temptation was to seek out substitute fathers everywhere, trying to be the perfect son, the ideal student, the one so anxious to please–as if to guarantee that no one would ever abandon this child again. Yet the compulsive need to be nice, to avoid every possibility of rejection becomes itself dangerous and seductive. ‘Being nice’ as a way of acquiring love is often not very nice at all. The desperate need to be loved can keep one from love itself. True intimacy is only possible where emptiness is accepted as gift, where people don’t use one another to try to fill (and to fix) each other’s hollowness. Yet neither do they leave. Intimacy is participation in each other’s unalterable emptiness, the sharing of a vulnerability that grows even deeper in being shared. If the desert has taught me anything, it’s that love can only blossom in abandonment. Only now, as the father–and the mother–are irretrievably gone, as the son retraces the path of his long search for the blessing of the firstborn son, does he find it possible (because now also necessary) to release these anxious dependencies of the past. Without parents, without anyone left to mend him, he’s cast into this desert night, thrown on its darkened God as if nothing else were left. Maybe this desolate, desert God is the one he’s sought all along in the endless quest for a lost father.” Belden Lane
“But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Can you relate to the sense of a “yawning, empty place, something no amount of approval” seems ever to fill?
- Have you tried to fill up that space with human approval? . . . even with a substitute father or mother? . . . by performing?
- Sometimes only when we lose our last hope of being “mended” by others, do we cast ourselves upon God, the only father who never disappoints. Have you done that yet?
Abba, you’ve thrown your arms around me, and you’ll never let go. I’m so grateful.
For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane
Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. If you find these riches helpful, you might want to check out my newly released print version here: Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings
for more meditations like these:
Sources: Lane, Belden. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. New York: Oxford, 1998.
“Blessed is that servant who does not think himself better when he is praised and exalted by men, than when he is despised and considered simple and good-for-nothing, for what a man is in the sight of God, this he is and no more.” Francis of Assisi
Krista Tippett recently interviewed Richard Rohr: “So recently, I took a break. I got some rest that I needed badly, and I was staying at a retreat center, and …it was a meditation session I went to. And the person who was leading it read a passage from your book, Falling Upward and read the line— … ‘I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it,’ which sounds so uncomfortable. There’s nothing in me that wants to pray for one good humiliation a day.”
No, and there isn’t in me either. I just said that to that group of millennials two weeks ago. Some years ago, I started recognizing that I was getting an awful lot of adulation and praise and some people treating me far more importantly than I deserved. And I realized I was growing used to it, that the ego just loves all of this admiration and projection. And a lot of it was projection. And I didn’t want fame and well-knownness and guru status to totally destroy me, and so for me, this became a necessity, that I had to watch how do I react to not getting my way, to people not agreeing with me, to people not admiring me—and there’s plenty of them—and that I actually needed that. And so I do, I still, I ask God for one good humiliation a day, and I usually get it, one hate letter or whatever it might be. [laughs] And then what I have to do, Krista, is I have to watch my reaction to it. And I’ve got to be honest with you, my inner reaction—I’m not proud to tell you—is defensive, is, ‘That’s not true. You don’t understand me.’ I can just see how well-defended my ego is. And of course, even your critics—and I have plenty of them—at least 10 to 20 percent of what they’re saying is usually true.” Richard Rohr
“What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets.”
Jesus in Luke 6:26
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you ever seen humiliation as something positive?
- The next time you’re humiliated, “watch your reaction” as if from outside yourself. What do you learn?
- Are you as defended against praise as you are against criticism?
Abba, undefend me.
For More: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
Thank you for sharing/following my blog! – Bill
“It is generally safe to say that noise and turmoil in the interior life are signs that proceed from our own emotion or from some spirit that is anything but holy. The inspirations of the Holy Ghost are quiet, for God speaks in the silent depths of the spirit. His voice brings peace. It does not arouse excitement, but allays it because excitement belongs to uncertainty. The voice of God is certitude. If he moves us to action, we go forward with peaceful strength. More often than not his inspirations teach us to sit still. They show us the emptiness and confusion of projects we thought we had undertaken for his glory. He saves us from the impulses that would throw us into wild competition with other men. He delivers us from ambition. The Holy Spirit is most easily recognized where he inspires obedience and humility. No one really knows Him who has not tasted the tranquillity that comes from the renunciation of our own will, our own pleasure, our own interests, without glory, without notice, without approval, for the interests of some other person. The inspirations of the Spirit of God are not grandiose. They are simple. They move us to see God in works that are difficult without being spectacular.” Thomas Merton
“you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” John 14:17
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you aware of the seemingly universal tendancy to look for the Holy Spirit in what is “grandiose” and “spectacular?” What might be missed doing that?
- Are you accustomed to the Holy Spirit telling you to “sit still?” Are you able to identify the dark side of “ambition?”
- Do you minister and make sacrifices for others even when it will certainly be “without glory, without notice, without approval?”
- How do you protect yourself from “noise and turmoil in the interior life?”
“Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.”
For More: The Ascent to Truth by Thomas Merton
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”